Hundred-Year-Old Advice Column: “Heart Problems” by Aunt Harriet

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Monday, July 28, 1913 – Thursday, July 31, 1913:  Nothing very much doing for these days. It’s so terrible hot and I have a hard time of it just doing nothing. I’d hate to go anyplace such weather as this is.


Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

This is the third of four days that Grandma lumped together into one diary entry.

Since Grandma didn’t write anything specific for this date, I’m going to share some more hundred-year-old advice from an advice columnist called “Aunt Harriet.”  It was published in Farm Journal.

Heart Problems

[Note: Aunt Harriet didn’t include the original questions, just the answers.]

“Whistling Girl”: No, I do not think it improper for a young, healthy and happy girl to whistle around her own home; but it would be unwise for her to walk along the street or public highway doing so.

“Dismay”: It is not necessary to have s written agreement concerning the breaking of an engagement. You can ask the young woman to release you from a promise which you feel has been a mistake and say that you will return her gifts and her letters, and she will no doubt understand that you expect her to do the same with yours. Make your request in language as polite as you can command, and consider well before you enter into another engagement.

L.T.W.: It is rather difficult to make advance now that the young man has left your neighborhood. If you had any special reason for refusing his attentions, and now find that you were mistaken, you might write and tell him so. On the other hand, if it was just a whim and you have gotten over it, you might write and explain. You could write to him about like this: “Dear friend John: In thinking over the changes in our neighborhood, I am reminded of my lack of appreciation of your attention to me. I sincerely regret my shortcomings in this direction.

Farm Journal (May, 1913)

You may also enjoy these previous posts that contain advice from Aunt Harriet:

What Did Wedding and Engagement Rings Cost A Hundred Years Ago?

How Much Should a Man Spend on a Date? Hundred-Year-Old Advice

29 Responses

  1. I like Aunt Harriet :)

  2. I never thought about it being improper for a lady to whistle “in public”….!

    • Years ago, there was a woman in my office who whistled whenever she walked down the hall. She was annoying, but I never thought it was improper. :)

  3. Grandma is clearly a winter girl;0)
    I like Aunt Harriet’s down to earth and practical advise. How lovely it would be to have her as a neighbor ;0)

  4. Now without Aunt Harriet, we have to follow our own instincts on these matters! SO much harder. :)

  5. Romance apparently has never been straight forward or easy endeavour, now someone would probably be tacky and just text you.

  6. I love your snippets of the past. I’m sure if your Grandma imagined someone reading this, she would have left more details. It is interesting how they dealt with high heat before electric fans, A/C, etc. They just didn’t do much! I can relate, that’s what I do when the power goes out. If you go to my site, you can pick up a couple awards:

    • The fact that Grandma didn’t realize that anyone would be reading her diary is the joy of it because it allowed her to write in an unaffected way that revealed a lot about her personality–but it is also the bane of it because she doesn’t provide enough detail.

  7. If I could whistle, I would whistle everywhere, every day! Love the advice column!

  8. When I was a teenager, the “advice column” was the first thing I looked for in the newspaper :)

  9. These are definitely very interesting for comparing the problems, the responses and the language used with today’s equivalent.
    One of my Dad’s uncles used to say that a whistling woman isn’t fit for man nor beast. (I whistle all the time! Oh dear. )

    • What an odd thing for him to say. . . apparently whistling was one of the many things that weren’t considered lady-like years ago. Thank goodness times have changed.

  10. Too bad she doesn’t post the questions, too, like Dear Abby or Ann Landers.

    • Aunt Harriet’s format varied somewhat from month to month. Sometimes she summarized a number of questions and then provided a general answer; while other times she just provided answers.

  11. What wonderful advice Aunt Harriet gave back then! Don’t you just love the very prim and proper way in which people spoke back then? :)

  12. […] Hundred-year-old Advice Column: Heart Problems by “Aunt Harriet” […]

  13. No whistling on the street?

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